Sadly, this autumn has seen the departure of Chris McGaw, who has managed the Lewisham Rivers and People project since its inception two and a half years ago. In that time, Chris has led umpteen walks all over Lewisham and shown us many features of the natural world that we never knew existed in our urban surroundings.
Chris devoted a great deal of time to habitat improvement along the Quaggy, including many sessions at Chinbrook Meadows. He led dawn chorus walks which required him to leave his Kent home often at 3.30am to meet groups at Sydenham or Hilly Fields. During such walks Chris would demonstrate his extraordinary skill of birdsong identification, aided by stalwarts such at Terry, Keith, Mick and the two Toms, such walks were very informative.
QWAG worked with Chris on numerous occasions, especially during the 3 Rivers Clean Up and on various wades up our side of the catchment. In his new job at the Kench Hill Centre near Tenterden, Chris will be helping inner city school children learn more about the natural world. He will be very much missed in Lewisham.
Illusive creatures, bats. As night specialists, they're difficult or downright impossible to see. But using electronic detectors we can now identify individual species - and get an idea of their numbers.
No excuse then for not recording these extraordinary mammals along the Quaggy and below its confluence with the Ravensbourne. By doing so, we can press for measures to protect them and promote their welfare.
Common pipistrelle in flight. Though a tiny bat, its wingspan can extend to 25 cm (10 inches). Photo: Hugh Clark
It's not easy counting bats even with a detector. In urban areas you have private properties which can screen the river, and most park gates are routinely locked at night. But a general picture can be gained. And this year our record of bats along the Quaggy is in line with what we found in 2010.
Common pipistrelles (CPs) and occasional soprano pipistrelles (SPs) have been found all along the river from Deptford Creek to Sutcliffe Park - often in the most unlikely places.
If you're a Chris Packham 'Springwatch' type geek or just interested in what we have found on your stretch of the river Click here
Ha'penny Hatch Bridge, Creekside, Deptford
2nd April 2011, 20.50. Tide out. CPs detected on both sides of the channel. An occasional bat seen.
Broadway Fields, Deptford, through Brookmill Park to Elverston Road
2nd April 2011, 21.10 to 21. 40.CPs detected throughout this stretch of river. Surprisingly, they are particularly active in the concrete channel just south of Deptford Broadway DLR station. The first bridge encountered makes a fine detecting and viewing platform as the bats flit below. Continuous chatter from detector and 3 common pipistrelles seen at one time. The next bridge going south, (it leads to the Stephen Lawrence centre) also proves a good spot though viewing is restricted downstream. CP activity apparent all the way along the river through Brookmill Park.
River Ravensbourne (with Quaggy) at Broadway Fields, Deptford. An unlikely spot for bats, but common pipistrelles regularly visit. Nearby willows and lime trees would certainly help boost the insect population in the channel
Concrete Channel by Tesco's, Lewisham town centre
2nd April c. 21.55 - 22.05.SPs detected on both sides of downstream bridge across concrete channel. Occasional CPs along the channel walking towards the upstream bridge. More SP's detected here at least 2 seen at one time to south of the bridge where the river approaches Lewisham Station.
The river by Tesco's, Lewisham. Nature is doing its best to reclaim a sterile man-made structure. Common and soprano pipistrelles have been detected (and seen) in the immediate vicinity
Quaggy Gardens, Lewisham High Street
2nd April 22.15 and 12th April 22.40. No bats detected but on 24th March 21.55 at least one CP present and 17th April 21.00, 3 CPs
Clarendon Rise bridge
Not usually detected here but on 17th April around 21.00 making passes on both sides of the bridge.
Clarendon Rise to Eastdown Park
No public access for monitoring which is a shame because suveys from QWAG members' gardens shows this stretch to be a rich hunting ground for bats, with common pipistrelles invariably patrolling.
Eastdown Park bridge
With patience, a CP usually to be detected on the downstream side but on 23rd April, c.21.35 found both sides perhaps, the same bat passing underneath.
An open stretch of natural river where CPs are usually to be found. Several present on 12th April around 22.30 and again on 23rd April 21.45
Occasionally the gate doesn't get locked. It wasn't on 23rd April c. 21 50, and CP activity was detected especially at the more open upstream end where the river enters the park.
Staplehurst Road bridge
This is the next public access point upriver from Manor Park and invariably CPs are to be found here. On 12th April c.22.15, downstream side, at least two were hawking along the three lime trees adjacent to the bridge. Bats have hardly ever been detected where the river crosses Manor Park road or on downstream side of Manor Lane bridge. So could the CP's regular presence here be due to the small scale river restoration schemes in the immediate vicinity? As shown in the photo, waterside plants are flourishing as embankments established within the concrete channel. Plants means insects means bats!
Staplehurst Road bridge crossing the Quaggy. These small-scale restoration projects within the concrete channel doubtless produce insects for local foraging bats
Manor House Gardens
Entry possible via an unlocked gate on 12th April c. 21.50. CPs over the lake in the park kept the detector continuously chattering. An occasional SP, too. From the bridge in Manor Lane, it's usual to pick up a hunting CP upriver here or along the hedge just inside the park parallel to the river.
Brightfield Road bridge
Usually a CP presence here particularly on the downstream side where the river approaches Manor House Gardens. On the 12th April c.21.30 active both sides.
Lee High Road bridge
CPs nearly always to be detected on the downstream side of the bridge by the Duke of Edinburgh pub or from its garden. At least one bat detected and seen on the 12th April c. 21.20. Rarely on the upstream side by Penfold's salesroom.
Invariably, a good bat detecting spot. Several CPs usually present along this natural stretch of river and the white wall of an opposite side garage means they can be seen. On the 12th April c. 21.05 at least three together. Same on 21st April, 21.00.
Osborn Terrace, Lee Green - a regular haunt for common pipistrelles. The passing bats show up against the white riverside wall
Weigall Road Recreation Ground
Always some CPs present along this unlit stretch of river. The case on, 21st April c.22.30. Interestingly, an ancient hedgerow running parallel to the river some 50 meters away, equally unaffected by artificial lighting, showed no bat presence on this occasion. River corridor preferred it seems. At least one CP can usually be detected downstream from the Weigall Road bridge. Rarely, the upstream side, but on the 21st April, a bat presence detected both sides.
David Lloyd Sports Centre
Surveyed 21st April 21.35 to 22.20
Permission to survey has always been granted. The grounds occupy the north bank of the Quaggy and also border the Lower Kidbrooke and its confluence with the Quaggy. Tennis courts back on to the river and are strongly illuminated at night, seemingly even when nobody is playing. The powerful lights show just how dense populations of midges can be. At least one CP tolerated the conditions here and in 2009 a tennis coach said bats would home in on the ball as it was tossed up for serving. At least two more CPs some 50 metres downstream where the intensity of the light was diminishing. Only one other CP otherwise recorded, at the furthest point downstream where a leylandii hedge marks the limits of the property. The dense tree cover on both sides of the river probably limits biodiversity.
John Roan School playing fields
Permission given to survey grounds. Footbridge here parallel with the Kidbrooke Park Road bridge had CP activity on both sides (18th April, 21.30). Since river restoration in 2004, trees and shrubs have burgeoned and a CP presence was detected walking downstream to the confluence with the Lower Kidbrooke. (Floodlights from nearby all-weather football pitch off). No bat activity along the Lower Kidbrooke stretch.
Common pipistrelle at rest. The common usually has a black face mask, unlike the soprano pipistrelle. Photo: Hugh Clark
18th April 20.45 - 21.20. Floodlights off. As usual, several CPs active by the inlet and along the avenue of trees leading northward. CP presence also in avenue of trees on northern boundary but not the western one. They've yet to be recorded here which is surprising as these are mature trees and a short distance from the hedge surrounding the running track where they are to be found. As usual too, mix of CPs and SPs over the lake.
A large colony of Japanese knotweed is delaying Manor Park's third entrance - the bridge over the Quaggy, linking the park to Longhurst Road. (See, Bridging the Gap, 30th January 2011.)
Knotweed burgeoning on the far side of the Quaggy where the bridge connects to Longhurst Road
The work was scheduled for completion early this summer. It didn't happen. The knotweed's presence drastically altered the timetable. Such is the threat to any form of construction, the plant has first to be eradicated. Roots can penetrate concrete and tarmac and spread 20 feet in all directions. To get rid of it, digging isn't an option - the smallest remaining fragment can start re-growth. The only solution is poisoning. Normally, the process takes a few years but a new technique should apparently see eradication by the end of the year.
It's a frustrating scene. All sections of the bridge are in store but nothing can be done. It seems we'll have to patiently wait. But once the all-clear's given, construction and installation can follow immediately. So with luck, the bridge will be in place early in 2012.
An epic 8-stage trek along the Meridian Line from Greenwich Peninsula to Peacehaven, Sussex, got underway on Saturday 7th May.
Researched and led by master route plotter and QWAG member, Ralph Palfrey, the first 8.7mile leg follows the Line, with its rich mix of Meridian markers, from the O2 to the bottom of Bromley Hill.
Conveniently, the Meridian passes through Manor Park, Lee. No marker here unfortunately, but some of the 33 or so walkers co-operatively held up a rope to indicate its approximate position.
The red rope marks the approximate position of the Prime Meridian just inside the main entrance of Manor Park - oops, checking the map seems we should have been a few metres back
A little southward, the Meridian crosses the River Quaggy - apparently just outside the park boundary but in sight of, the new bridge that will eventually link the park to Longhurst Road.
It would be interesting and educational to mark the exact spot on a wall here. But where is it? Meridian indicators are given on the margins of the Ordnance Survey (OS) Explorer map of the area (Sheet 161). The edition issued to celebrate the Millennium, actually marks the line. But its 0.6 mm width, on a scale of 1: 25 000, represents some 15 metres on the ground. And unfortunately, neither the meridian nor meridian indicators are given on larger scale OS maps.
The Prime Meridian crosses the Quaggy somewhere here, probably a little beyond the park boundary
Another problem - the meridian marked by the Ordnance Survey is not the Prime Meridian. The OS still uses the meridian that was current at the Observatory during the early years of the Survey in the 18th century, namely James Bradley's, which is 5.9 metres (19 feet or so) west of the one adopted by the world in 1884. So, depending on latitude, the Prime Meridian is always to be found a little to the east. At Manor Park, the distance will be fractionally more than 5.9 metres.
The probable answer is a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. But if you stand on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, the reading is 0° 00' 4.5". Reading 0° 00' 00" is shown some 100 metres eastward. This anomaly is insurmountable it seems - a technical problem due to satellite positioning, necessary computer modelling and irregularities in the Earth's shape.
So borrow a super duper GPS receiver and wade about in the Quaggy till you get a longitude reading of 0° 00' 4.5". Is that the problem solved? Expert advice welcome.
For further information on Ralph's Greenwich Meridian Line Green Merlin) walk, contact him at 020 8460 7215 or email@example.com
Community groups like QWAG are vital to warding off alien invaders such as Himalayan Balsam, in a bid to improve local biodiversity, experts told a major London conference in May.
This is timely news as QWAG prepares for the 3RiversCleanUp between 28 May and 12 June 2011.
Now in its third year, the cleanup attracts hundreds of volunteers over a fortnight of daily events that take place along the Quaggy, Ravensbourne and Pool rivers in South East London.